Phillies’ Minor Issues is a weekly column at That Ball’s Outta Here, providing a snapshot of the minor league farm system. It offers stat lines of the current top five prospects in the organization, any major news items, transactions, and injuries occurring throughout the week, and praise to deserving performances and on-the-rise names.
This week in Phillies’ Minor Issues: Two relievers are called up amidst major league roster shuffling, the Phillies prepare for Thursday’s Rule 4 Draft, and top prospects have a rough week.
The Week’s News
Phillies Prep for June 5 Draft. This coming Thursday, June 5 is MLB’s annual Rule 4 Amateur Draft. For an organization considered to be in the bottom third of prospect depth (although trending in the right direction), this draft has particular importance, although I’m sure I would come up with a reason to say that regardless. The draft is fun, and provides much needed new prospect life into every farm system in baseball. The Phillies hold the 7th overall pick in the draft, and as Jim Salisbury reports, the team is likely to buck their traditional philosophy of drafting tool-heavy athletes in favor of fast moving, safer picks. This could imply a focus on a polished collegiate arm like LSU’s Aaron Nola, should he be available at that point in the draft.
Aumont, Jimenez return to Majors; Ruf returned. After two back-to-back marathon games against the Mets, Phillippe Aumont and Cesar Jimenez were called upon to add fresh arms to the Major League bullpen. As a result, there were a pair of roster casualties. Jeff Manship was placed on the DL after injuring himself on the base-paths in the second game against the Mets, and Darin Ruf was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Ruf has yet to return to the Lehigh Valley lineup. Aumont and Jimenez both saw immediate action, however, the night of their promotions. Jimenez pitched a clean inning allowing a hit and striking out one, while Aumont suffered the loss after allowing two runs in his inning.
Dominican Summer League Season begins. The DSL season has gotten underway, and it appears as if recently-hailed signing Luis Encarnacion will begin his season in the Gulf Coast League instead. As far as fans should be concerned, the team’s situation is similar to that of the previously covered Venezuelan Summer League team; Due to the inconsistent level of competition, not too many conclusions should be drawn from the results – wait until a player is brought to America before paying too much attention to them. The DSL team lost their opener, 3-5.
- Jesse Biddle returned after missing his previous start (5/25) due to headaches caused by being hit in the head by hail.
- Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez returned to the disabled list with “shoulder soreness” with only three rehab starts under his belt.
- Ryne Sandberg told reporters that Ethan Martin has been fighting a “dead arm,” but has yet to miss time.
- B.J. Rosenberg has returned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley from the DL after being hit in the head with a line drive on April 28.
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- It was a tough week for top position prospects. Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, and Carlos Tocci have each experienced cold streaks for the past week (and some longer). The three hit a collective .188 (15 for 80) over the last seven days. In May, Tocci regressed, only hitting .184/.257/.214 in 98 ABs. This bad month should be qualified by noting his .222 BAbip despite relatively consistent batted ball rates.
- Jesse Biddle returned after missing his scheduled start the prior week, due to headaches suffered as a result of being hit in the head with hail, in a bizarre instance. He had the best week of the top prospects, and was effective in the 6.1 IP he pitched. His control was fairly strong, and only allowed 1 ER – however, he only threw 58% of his pitches for strikes and only accumulated 3 K on the day.
- Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez suffered yet another setback this week, and did not pitch after returning to the Disabled List. After only 3 starts (9.1 IP) into his rehab stint, he experienced a dead arm, and was listed as having “shoulder soreness.” In his first American season, he’s allowed 10 H, 7 ER, 9 BB, and only 3 K in his short time in High-A Clearwater.
In addition to mentions of the top five prospects each week, attention will be given to On The Rise prospects (who might be see on organizational lists around the internet) with strong performances, and anyone around the system with a week deserving of recognition, to whom I’m designating the working title Names of Note.
On The Rise
Pitching – RHP Ethan Martin
Throwing only 57% of his pitches for strikes this week, Ethan Martin still has some control issues, but allowed no runs and only two hits in his three appearances. Despite the recent bullpen shuffling, that Martin has not returned to the big leagues is somewhat surprising. He has been reported to be dealing with a dead arm in recent days, but hasn’t missed time and should be near the top of the list for promotions. Since his return to Lehigh Valley, Martin has accumulated 11 K, 9 H, 4 BB, and only 2 ER in 10.2 IP.
Hitting – OF Cameron Perkins
Cameron Perkins has spent this season doing nothing but hitting. Outside of J.P. Crawford, Perkins has produced the strongest results of any Phillies’ position prospects, hitting .342/.408/.495 with 3 HR, 19 2B, and a good 20/30 BB/K in 52 games. His lanky stature and unconventional tools get him some Hunter Pence comparisons (not traditionally a positive comparison, player development-wise). Most of his extra-base power currently comes from doubles, but he has the potential to add strength and generate a few more home runs in the future. His tools grade at average/fringe-average across the board with the possible exception of his hit tool – he’s not a top prospect, but his bat will likely get him to the majors.
Names Of Note
Pitching – LHP Ranger Suarez
Aside from “Ranger Suarez” being the best name in the system, therefore being a literal Name of Note, Ranger Suarez has done everything asked of him during his long tenure on the VSL roster (the last three seasons). He’s converted from relief work to starting this season, and is still only 18 years old. What’s really notable about him is that he hasn’t allowed a walk in two years. It’s a small sample, but anyone without a walk over 36 IP is still worthy of praise. During that time, he’s also only allowed 11 ER and struck out 34.
Hitting – UTIL Tyler Henson
Tyler Henson is a 26-year old former 5th round pick who has put together yet another solid season in his second year with the Phillies. He’s a bit of a swiss-army knife, and has played six different positions already this season at Lehigh Valley. He has 18 extra-base hits, and already stolen a surprisingly-high 12 bases in 2014. He hit .310/.355/.448 this week, and despite having never reached the majors, he presents solid depth for the Phillies organizationally. Despite Freddy Galvis‘ injury, and Cesar Hernandez and Reid Brignac currently in the majors, his place on the depth chart is still murky. At Triple-A, he has to battle INFs Andres Blanco and Ronny Cedeno, two major league veteran options, and possibly the younger OF Leandro Castro, depending on the situation (all three received looks in Spring Training).